2012-13 NBA Preview: Part II (Pacific and Atlantic divisions)

Posted: 23rd October 2012 by Jeff Plattner in NBA

Pacific Division

1.    Los Angeles Lakers:  What L.A. lacked the most last season was a quality PG. The remedy? Shipping four future draft picks to Phoenix and landing 2-time MVP, Steve Nash, who instantly became the most likeable Laker since Magic Johnson. And then just when L.A. gave you the slightest reason to not hate them, they went out and traded for Dwight Howard! But was there really any doubt that sooner or later Howard would wind up in a Lakers jersey? I think not. With a fairly easy schedule to begin the year, Kobe, Nash, Howard and company should have plenty of time to mesh before things get more difficult after Christmas. Anything less than a trip to the NBA Finals would be a big disappointment for the Lakers. Prediction: 57-25

2.    Los Angeles Clippers: Five months removed from a 2nd round sweep at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs, the Clippers still have a bad taste in their mouths. While the additions of Lamar Odom, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, Grant Hill, and Willie Green make the Clippers deeper than a year ago, the key to their season is the progression of PF Blake Griffin. Griffin, a nightly highlight film, must do more things well to become a complete player. A good start would be to work on improving at the free throw line, where he shot a putrid 52% last year. Prediction: 47-35

3.    Golden State Warriors: Remember when Baron Davis was a Warrior? Better yet, remember when he was a legit ballplayer? Yeah, not many of us probably do, but regardless, that was the last time Golden State made the playoffs and surprisingly, it was only six years ago. Getting back to the playoffs for the second time in nineteen years will be no easy task, but the Warriors are much improved. If Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut (missed a combined 94 games in 2011-12) can somehow stay healthy and Klay Thompson and rookie Harrison Barnes consistently knock down shots, it’s not crazy to think that the Warriors could find themselves battling for the No. 8 seed in the west. Prediction: 38-44

4.    Sacramento Kings: 22 wins per year. That’s what the Kings have averaged over the past four seasons. What they’ve lacked during that horrendous stretch is not talent, but rather the presence of any sort of team leader. With some terrible contracts on the books (they owe Marcus Thornton, John Salmons, Chuck Hayes, and Jason Thompson a combined $84 million guaranteed), the Kings have somewhat handcuffed themselves for the next few years, but drafting Kansas PF Thomas Robinson 5th overall in June’s NBA Draft, Sacramento took a step in the right direction of improving their culture. Prediction: 31-51

5.    Phoenix Suns: Phoenix should have asked Timberwolves fans how fun it is to have Wesley Johnson and Michael Beasley in your starting lineup. Well, here you go. An absolute waste of the No. 4 overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft, Johnson was arguably the least effective player in the league in two seasons with the Wolves. A poor ball-handler, Johnson is forced into being a jump shooter because he cannot create shots for himself. One problem; he can’t shoot either. A ball stopper who almost exclusively settles for jumpers, the most frustrating part about Beasley’s game is his refusal to attack the rim, pass the ball, or take a step back and at least turn those long 2’s into 3-point attempts. Prediction: 24-58

Atlantic Division

1.    Boston Celtics: This will be the best divisional race in the NBA, with four possible playoff teams coming out of the Atlantic, but until somebody supplants them atop the division, the Celtics are again the favorite. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are aging, but this is Rajon Rondo’s team and the Celtics will go as far as he can take them. Upgrading a bench that was dreadful offensively was the primary concern this summer. The addition of Jason Terry along with the returns of Avery Bradley and Jeff Green, from injuries, is sure to help. Courtney Lee, a career 38% three-point shooter replaces Allen and offers a more stable defensive option in doing so. The loss of Greg Stiemsma will hurt and rookie Fab Melo will be asked to become the shot-blocking presence off the bench. Prediction: 49-33

2.    Philadelphia 76ers: With the loss of not only Andre Iguodala, but also Lou Williams and Elton Brand, it was extremely difficult to justify putting Philly ahead of both New York and Brooklyn. Here’s the justification. a) Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner showed flashes last season and both are on the verge of breakout seasons. b) Sure it took giving up Iguodala to get him, but the acquisition of Andrew Bynum gives Philly the best center in the east and a force that the rest of the conference will have a heck of a time stopping. c) The 76ers are great at sharing the ball, something New York and Brooklyn may struggle with. Prediction: 47-35

3.    Brooklyn Nets: Adding Joe Johnson is nice, but Deron Williams is the key, as the Nets make the move to Brooklyn. With Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, and Brook Lopez rounding out the starting five, the Nets look really nice on paper…until you get to the bench. Their lack of depth and inability or unwillingness to defend, whichever it is, will be what keeps the Nets from being contenders in the east.  Prediction: 45-37

4.    New York Knicks: For 26 games, Linsanity captured the entire nation. And then it was gone in the blink of an eye, as Jeremy Lin missed the final month of the season with an injury. After bringing life back to a stale New York Knicks organization, the Knicks thanked Lin by letting him go. So, instead of paying the 24-year-old potential star, New York decided to spend the money on 28-year-old below average PG Raymond Felton, as well as nearly over the hill Jason Kidd (39) and Marcus Camby (38). So, while the Knicks are again clearly Carmelo Anthony’s team, raise your hand if you think that’s a good thing. Bueller??? Bueller??? Prediction: 44-38

5.    Toronto Raptors: If the Raptors have two things going for them, it’s that a) they’re the best NBA team from Canada! And b) they play in the Eastern Conference. 45-103 in the last two seasons, the Raptors have a steep hill to climb. With the average age of their starting five just over 23 years old, inexperience will undoubtedly cause them to lose close games. A former No. 1 overall pick, in his 7th season from Italy, it is simply time for Andrea Bargnani to become a star. Prediction: 36-46